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Promised Land
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Reviews & Ratings for
Promised Land More at IMDbPro »

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

The Fate of Each One in a Great Low Budget Movie

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
8 November 2004

In the small town of Ashville, Hancock (Jason Gedrick) is the best basketball player and local hero. Mary (Tracy Pollan) is a cheerleader and his gorgeous girlfriend. They both intend to go to the college together. Their friend Danny 'The Senator' (Kiefer Sutherland) quits high school and moves alone to the Arizona, trying to have a good job and a better life. A couple of years later, Hancock is the local chief of police, living from his glorious past; Mary is studying Arts, and although still loving Hancock, she can not accept life in Ashville and has a new boyfriend; and Danny is a complete loser, who decides to get married with the crazy Beverly (Meg Ryan) and spend the Christmas Eve in his home town with his family. The story ends in a tragic way. 'Promised Land' is a depressive tale about the fate of each one and, in accordance with the initial credits, is based on a true story. The young cast has a great performance, the story is never corny, and it is great to see an American low budget movie about real common people, and not the fancy Hollywood reality. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): 'Terra Prometida' ('Promised Land')

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Tragedy is often not well received

Author: L-Jet (
8 September 2000

I can't believe anyone referred to this as fluff;hate it, but no way is this fluff. It was almost creepy to me how this non-didactic near masterpiece captured a lot of what the 80's were about for most Americans by telling this seemingly simple tale of disaffected young people in some small burg in the Midwest. Of the four principles, two want to get out (only one can articulate to what, and she's hasn't convinced herself), one needs to stay because his only real defining moments were there, and the fourth is a near sociopathic drifter, who meets up with the clueless one who leave smallburg because he doesn't know what else to do. Even this character, Bev (Meg Ryan actually showing range instead of getting rich off Nora Ephron fluff she can walk thru), needs "home" in some way, and convinces clueless Danny to marry her (a great wedding scene; gives new meaning to the word "downscale") and take her to meet his folks. Former star HS athlete Hancock (Jason Gedrick), the one who couldn't leave, has become a cop and is trying to convince ex HS sweetheart Mary (Tracy Pollan) to come back and stay, and she IS conflicted, but ultimately knows she has to get away. It sounds somewhat pedestrian, but it's played to expose more than human frailty, but how we can destroy ourselves and others without ill will. It also, probably unconsciously, shows us a piece of the majority of USA that wasn't getting rich in the 80's, and in fact was struggling with diminished expectations and an increasing gap between the haves and have nots. Tom Wolfe gave us the smarmy pseudo-satire "Bonfires of the Vanities", Michael Hoffman got us a peek at what was and, to some extent, what was to be. The slowly spiralling paths of the characters in Promised Land eventually collide with tragic results. There is no salvation or redemption.-- The End Oh, you want to see Meg Ryan take another chance and come up winners, check out "Hurlyburly" and her small but memorable role in this actors' movie adapted from David Rabe's play.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

so there truly is another side of the American way of life

Author: nieltje from Middelrode, Netherlands
4 November 2003

I read the summary of the movie and I saw the line "the other side of the American way of life" and I was wondering what it was. I'm Dutch, so it was a relief to see that America wasn't as perfect as it seemed. the movie wasn't really what I expected from it. but not in a negative way. I simply loved the movie. the simplicity of it. I only knew Kiefer Sutherland and Meg Ryan (Kiefer was the reason I bought it). Kiefer was great as Danny, but I was stunned by Meg as the almost trashy Bev. I almost cried at the end, but I only want to say: Watch it, as fast as you can. and don't expect anything, because you won't get what you'll expect.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Falls Short Of The Mark

Author: Eric Chapman ( from Pittsburgh, PA
23 July 2001

When I was growing up my folks had a saying for whenever I wasn't able to finish some mouth-watering dessert that I had insisted on getting: my eyes were too big for my stomach. That's how I felt about this ambitious but under-inflated would-be epic. It very much wants to be a sort of quintessential 80's picture, a final say on the tragic consequences of so-called Reagan-era greed and consumerism, but it keeps pulling up lame. Like a novice trial lawyer it falters nearly every time it tries to make its case.

Occasionally it gets things right and briefly wanders into "A Simple Plan" or "The Last Picture Show" territory, in its double-edged depiction of small town security and frustration. There's a terrific, understated scene between Jason Gedrick and Tracy Pollan as they swim in a hot spring and lazily recall some of their glory days. Kiefer Sutherland and Meg Ryan have some nice fragile moments in the desert when these two lost souls discover the joy of actually connecting, however briefly, with another human being. There are glimmers of something substantial going on here, which is what makes the whole so disappointing.

The biggest flaw is the amount of time elapsed from Gedrick's game-winning buzzer beater that kicks the story off, to a mere TWO years later, when the 4 principles are at their big "crossroads" in life. Two years is simply not long enough. The film is making the specious argument that somehow Reagan's cold-hearted policies (he appears a couple times on television making supposedly "empty", out of touch speeches) are to blame for Gedrick dropping out of school and settling for becoming a local cop, or Sutherland hitting the road because he can't live up to his nickname ("Senator") by the ripe old age of 19! Yeah, fate and that trickle down economy are really conspiring against those two, aren't they? In order for an audience to really FEEL their desperation, they need to be older with their directions in life more set in concrete. That's why "A Simple Plan" worked so well, where here it's much harder to sympathize with the lead characters. Hell, chalk it up as a bad year or two. They all still have plenty of time to right the ship.

The acting is generally okay. I thought Meg Ryan over-did the hell-raising a bit, but at least she gives the film some real jolts of energy. Gedrick pulls a classic, 4 star nutty in a kitchen at one point that would make Mickey Rourke proud. Unfortunately the writing too often lets them down. There's such a fine line between having inarticulate characters groping for words to express themselves, and the screenwriter groping to give them something meaningful and revealing to say. In this case, it sure felt like the screenwriter was doing the most groping. There's just too many "It's not you. It's me!" and "You just ... don't understand!" type lines. Many of the arguments are forced and unconvincing.

I really liked the film's collision course structure, many of its visuals (the spinning camera around the little car in the desert casts an undeniable spell) and even its bombastic score full of "end of the world" chants and that sort of thing. It was setting me up for a conclusion that I was expecting to have so much more of an impact than it ultimately did. It didn't dig deep enough, didn't flesh out its people or their world (the town is never given a personality other than generically small and sleepy) sufficiently for me to care as much as I wanted to. But I did WANT to, and perhaps that's a small accomplishment. It's certainly better than the not entirely dissimilar "Inventing The Abbotts". But if you really want to see a more successful though equally forgotten riff on these very themes check out an early Bridget Fonda flick called "Out Of The Rain".

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Terrific movie - have watched over and over again many times

Author: rhackney from Sacramento, CA
21 January 2003

No matter what the critics contend I loved this movie - I like the actors - all of them, not just the top 4. I thought the top 4 should have gotten Oscars. The film is depressing but it is supposed to be that way. The scenery and music just add to the awesomeness. References to President Regan made it more relevant. The despair and frustration of growing up in this movie are not equalled anywhere else. Two thumbs up.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Restlessness v. pull of small town home leads to tragedy

Author: L-Jet ( from Slurbs of North Central NJ USA
8 September 2000

Two principles are anxious to get out of a small burg in the mid west and one refuses to leave the only place where he ever had any recognition (as a star high school athlete) and becomes a local cop. The wild card here is a drifter and borderline sociopath who nonetheless also needs something like "home", but has no idea what that is.

Played by Meg Ryan as you've never seen her. Although if you rent "Hurlyburly" you'll see what she can do with a well written part not seemingly made for her; this woman can act, but apparently would rather have Nora Ephron help her be a star and get fat deals playing variations on the same person. Rant aside, Ryan's character hooks up somewhere in the west with the most disaffected of the small-towners, played as a not very bright but enigmatic loser by Kiefer Sutherland. The pull of "home", both real and imagined, leads Kiefer and Meg back to small-burg with tragic consequences. There is a real 80's feel to this. Ennui and fear and neediness combine as America ostensibly does big things, a few people get really rich, and people like these characters instinctively know that most people, especially ones like them, have fewer prospects than their parents. Unlike me, the movie is not at all didactic, so check it out as one of the more outstanding "feel-bad" movies I've ever seen.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Bleak small budget film about the small town folks and their sometimes small dreams and lives.

Author: Havan_IronOak from NYC/FL
13 January 2002

Dave Hancock is a small town athletic star who goes away to college as a basketball player on scholarship. When he washes out of the team he drops out of college and comes home to find a job on the local Police department where he's comfortable among the folks he's always known and able to relax in his former glory.

Mary his head cheerleader girl friend goes away to school to study art but also longs for the small-town life and the boy she's left behind. She's got big dreams but is afraid to leave the comfort of the small town and afraid to tell her family she wants to stay.

Danny Rivers, tagged `the Senator' was a nobody in high school and can't wait to leave for the world outside the town he's grown up in and the bleak undemonstrative family that raised him.

When Danny meets and marries a crazy do-as-she-pleases girl he decides to return home and all of their lives are changed forever...

I found this movie to be evocative of a period and had better than average character development but this film will not appeal to all. It is a sketch of a time and a place and the people there. They are not archtypes, they are not universal but they are realistic and you can care about them and as with many sketches the viewer is left with the desire for more, a more complete picture, a better sense of what comes next and even a few more details about the present.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Utterly depressing picture of small town life.

Author: Pepper Anne from Orlando, Florida
13 April 2004

Kiefer Sutherland had a weird choice of roles in the early 80s, and quite a few times, he played wierd characters in often depressing movies. Promised Land is one of them.

The story of Promised Land focuses on some post-high school small town residents who, although they possessed some potential for greatness, their lives never seem to be going anywhere, or at least don't go the way they anticipate. Hancock (Jason Gedrick), who was the town's glorious athlete as a high school basketball player, now spends his days at a thankless job, doing street patrol as a cop. Both he and his girlfriend, Mary (Tracy Pollen) seem to young and rambunctious (at least Gedrick does) and always wanting more than their quick introduction into suburban, Middle class life.

Hancock's friend Danny (Sutherland) is his former high school classmate, a weak and quiet guy who returns to his depressing little town with his wild (and annoying) new wife, Bev (Meg Ryan), who seems to find her husband to be a suitable massicist target. Danny, too, is reminded of better times he may've had (he's not a dumb kid, either), and fears what lies ahead as the town elicits reminders of the ambitions he had, now lost. Of course, if you know movies like this, the story will show no silver lining.

If you like this movie, perhaps you might try searching out 1969, another early Sutherland title that is something along the same lines, but obviously, it is a period drama.

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Three fantastic performances in an otherwise mediocre movie

Author: jm10701 from United States
16 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILER (clearly marked) BELOW!

Promised Land is competently directed and well-written (the dialog is great, although the story is neither particularly interesting nor believable), but it's mainly a character-driven, actor's movie. What the characters do is uninteresting, but how they do it is fascinating.

Jason Gedrick, Kiefer Sutherland and Meg Ryan are fantastic in the leads. Most of the other actors are at least competent, although their roles are far less well-developed.

Gedrick's has-been high-school basketball star is totally convincing and amazingly complex and sympathetic, far more interesting than such people are in real life.

SPOILER HERE!!!! +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ Sutherland's sweet, nerdy, needy, clueless loser reminds me of Plato (Sal Mineo) in Rebel Without a Cause - a character so profoundly disabled emotionally that dying young is not only inevitable but a blessing. He's like a person born with no skin. +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ END OF SPOILER

Meg Ryan is fascinating as his miserable, destructive and self-destructive wife - a bad influence but not really a bad person.

These three actors (and the brilliant writer who created the roles) turn familiar stereotypes (The Washed-Up Jock, The Loser Nerd, The Crazy B!tch) into full, rich, multidimensional human beings.

But these three characters are more than human beings, because real human beings are just as simplistic and flat as the stereotypes they inspire. These are great movie characters, BETTER than real people.

That's why we watch movies instead of real people: great movie characters are lots more interesting. The three lead characters make this otherwise mediocre movie a delight to watch.

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Those Struggling Contras

Author: LeonLouisRicci from United States
13 February 2014

The Unfulfilled American Dream is at the Heartland of this Indie Drama that is a Heavy-Handed Downer. Full of Icons of American Heritage and Spiritual Significance, this is a Not Bad Movie about Good Folks who End Up Directionless in a Country where the President goes on TV and Equates the Contras to our Founding Fathers while Seemingly Oblivious to the Plight of its New Generation of Future Middle-Class Citizens and Senators.

Meg Ryan is Slightly Miscast and just can't Shake a Clean Cut Image even with Pink Hair and Tattoos. Kiefer Sutherland Underplays in Almost a Gosh, Golly, Gee kind of Innocence but Surprisingly comes off the most Believable.

The Sets are Heavily Populated with Americana and the Old Folks are Slightly Unwashed in Rumply Clothes that Again Signify that Something is Rotting in Paradise. The Ending is a "you had to see something like that coming", but Overall it is a Gutsy Attempt in the Reagan Era and Greed Decade to Shine Some Light on the Struggling Plight of Everyday Folks.

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